The Content of Their Complexes:

The Wounded Leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama


  • Jennifer L. Selig Pacifica Graduate Institute



Since his first appearance before the collective psyche at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama has been compared to Martin Luther King, Jr. While the content of their characters may be similar, this article takes up the dissimilar content of their complexes. In The Wounded Researcher, Robert Romanyshyn wrote, “A complex is a kind of wounding, and for the wounded researcher it is both the obstacle and the pathway into the unfinished business in the soul of his or her work.” This article extends Romanyshyn’s theory into the realm of leadership, exploring the marriage of a wounded leader (King and Obama) and a wounded collective (America) with the same complex. That this sympathetic complex may prove an obstacle and provide a pathway into the unfinished work in the soul of both the leader and his or her followers was certainly true with King; will it hold true with Obama?